Published: 15 Sep 2017 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2017 17:10:53

 A VetCompass RVC epidemiological study involving over 100,000 bitches from veterinary clinics across England has highlighted certain breeds that are hugely predisposed to urinary incontinence.  

Urinary incontinence describes involuntary leaking of urine from the bladder. It is often a distressing condition for both owners and their pets, and may impact negatively on the bond between these. The condition needs to be managed effectively to avoid welfare problems for affected bitches such as urinary tract infections and skin scalding from urine leakage.   However, there has been little reliable information on the frequency and breeds affected in England up to now.  

The Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System (VetCompass) provides clinical evidence to improve companion animal health. The not-for-profit research project is co-ordinated at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and collaborates with many of the UK’s veterinary practices to gather anonymised clinical data on over 7 million UK pets. VetCompass studies aim to provide unique insights that can improve animal welfare and support the human-pet bond.   

RVC veterinary epidemiologist and VetCompass researcher Dr Dan O’Neill said: “VetCompass is rapidly becoming the biggest data resource on companion animals worldwide and the UK is now leading the world in research to learn from these extensive data. These anonymised data on millions of animals support investigations that have been impossible previously. VetCompass findings are revolutionising our understanding of companion animal health care”  

Talking specifically about the significance of the urinary incontinence study, Dr O’Neill added: “This urinary incontinence study has uncovered dramatic breed predispositions that have previously been hidden to vets and owners. Overall, about 3% of bitches were affected but this rose to over 30% in the Irish setter and over 20% in the Dobermann with many other breeds also predisposed. Vets can now use these results to alert owners to typical clinical signs in order to ensure earlier treatment.The study also suggests increased risk in heavier and neutered bitches. In consequence, we now have a VetCompass Masters project supported by BSAVA PetSavers working to unravel these associations in order to identify potential preventive strategies, especially in those highly predisposed breeds.‘  

The study was based on a population of 100,397 bitches attending 119 veterinary clinics across England. Overall 3·14% of the bitches were recorded with urinary incontinence.  

Compared with cross-bred dogs, the breeds with the highest odds (OR) ratios for urinary incontinence were the Irish Setter (OR 8·09), Dobermann (OR 7·98], Bull Mastiff (OR 6·24), Rough Collie (OR 3·75), Dalmatian (OR 3·26;) and Boxer (OR 3·03). Bitches weighing above average for their breed had 1·31 times the odds of urinary incontinence compared with bitches weighing below average. Older bitches were also predisposed. Neutered bitches had 2·23 times the odds compared with entire bitches.  

The study also gave evidence on the welfare impact from urinary incontinence, with 45·6% of cases receiving medical therapy for the condition. In addition, of the bitches that died during the study period, urinary incontinence was recorded as either contributory or the main reason for death in 16·7 % of these deaths.  

This paper is available in Early View on Wiley Online Library ahead of publication in JSAP at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.12731/full 

O'Neill, D G O; Riddell, A; Church, D B; Owen, L; Brodbelt, D C; Hall, J L.
Urinary incontinence in bitches under primary veterinary care in England: prevalence and risk factors.
JOURNAL OF SMALL ANIMAL PRACTICE, 2017

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